A few years ago, I found a copy of The ABC Bunny at a yard sale. You know that initial, tight feeling in your solar plexis as you smell a smell you know but can’t place? That same feeling hit me with the black and white block print of the bunny bounding through the alphabet. I found myself once again entranced by those 26 letters. Now let’s be generous and say that this wasn’t a moment in which I reverted to my childhood mind. Let’s say instead that the book re-awoke that time in my life when I was learning the personal and cultural basics of human principles and needs. As a kid, picture books can be the jumping off point for your life-long reflection upon that never-ending personal definition of what it means to be human. And as an adult, there is something in revisiting that purer lesson you encountered for the first time, guised in color and magic. As we get older, magic gives way to realism, earnestness to sarcasm. And it felt really good to set those aside and read the alphabet. The rediscovery of The ABC Bunny began my attempt to reacquire (and remember, for that matter) the other books I had as a child, and eventually, led to the creation of this blog.
So… The Mission Statement:
This isn’t a blog for kids. It’s not an advice column for what should be read to children. It’s a blog for the other side, the reading side. It’s a blog that says, picture books aren’t only for kids (really, they can’t be or parents and babysitters all over the world would run screaming at small-voiced requests for Buggy the Bear). Whether you do or do not have children, it’s time to think of some of those thin, colorful, illustrated books– which may or may not (if not, I’m sorry) have been read aloud to you when you were a child– as worthy of our adult time. Of being not only revisited, but also discovered. Explored. Enjoyed. We who like to read –and especially we who maybe like to read a little less– are missing out if we lock picture books away in that corner of the library with the small chairs.
The Slightly Bigger Part:
I’m not only talking about nostalgia. Though it’s an unavoidable feeling when revisiting the past (and it’s really awfully nice to remember your gurgling, warm, puerile happiness), there’s more here. Some of these sweet little stories are just simplified versions of big people books. After all, adults write them, not kids. And simplicity is not a crutch. That same earnest encouragement– to find magic, to think bigger, to understand mortality– that spoke to you when you were a kid is still there. Only now, with your more nuanced scope of life thus far, maybe you understand it a little better. And maybe, just maybe, the straight-forward, one-line pages will feel, though not necessarily illustrative, at least refreshing as they offer those gems of simple, earnest wisdom that sparkle with the forgotten validity of innocence.
From here on in, there’ll be sporadic postings taking a longer look at what good stuff there is to be found in picture books. Look at those bright little books, dismiss our modern fear of non-ironic things, and jump in. Earnestness is scary. But take a break. Brush away the dirt. It’s all in the the bigness of the small. And the pictures… You might even rediscover some basic principles of your own humanity. Or just just feel real nice…